Homily – December 8, 2013

The sprout of Jesse is rising in all our lives.

Just a few words on the image we are given in the first words of our reading from Isaiah; a shoot shall come out of the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.’ When Isaiah wrote these words the people of Israel were at a low point in their history. Our merciful God sent his servant Isaiah to a people burdened by confusion and hopelessness with the promise that things will get better. Don’t give up.

How many good people in the world today live in such desperate situations? We can’t imagine what the hundreds of thousands of men, women and children in the refugee camps in Lebanon and Jorden are going through. How desperate and hopeless their lives must be. We think of the good people of the Philippines who lost everything in the latest typhoon.

Closer to home, we know people or we may be experiencing it ourselves who hear the news of a tumor or growth in our body. We may be grieving over the death of a spouse or family member. Maybe we are dealing with a son or daughter trapped in addiction to drugs. Maybe we are part of a downsizing in our place of work and face the possibility of being jobless. Maybe we are dealing with the breakup of our marriage or the ending of a long term friendship. Maybe we have a job we hate and know we are under paid. So many of these realities convince us our world is ending, falling down around us and we have nowhere to go.

It was to such people as us, a people who saw themselves as helpless, powerless, with hope that God send Isaiah with his powerful vision of hope.

Isaiah uses the image of a stump of a once mighty tree that had been cut down and yet from that stump came new life, new growth, and a new future. From that stump came the promise of time of peace and justice – total opposites living in harmony; the wolf and lamb, the leopard and kid, the calf and the lion, the cow and the bear.

There can be times when we feel we’ve been cut down, we have nothing left. We feel that all our efforts to be good and loving, to be fair just don’t bear fruit. We struggle with our daily realty that the good we want to do, we do not do and the evil we would not do, we still do. We struggle every day to be loving and forgiving men and woman. We try to be accepting of men and women who believe and live differently than we do. We try to be more aware of and sensitive to the needs of our neighbours. And when the sun goes down we know we haven’t lived and loved anyway near the image of harmony Isaiah offers in today’s scripture.We try to love others with the same generosity with which God has loved us.

We wish the imagery of the gospel might be true in our lives, our crooked ways made straight, our rough ways smooth, our high opinions of ourselves brought low so that nothing in our daily living could hinder the coming of God’s kingdom into that part of our lives which has yet to be redeemed.

As someone once wrote, ’Advent is about glimpsing God’s intimate love for every hair on our heart.’ Advent in trusting the truth that God’s grace can bring new life and transformation out of the stumps of our lives because with God all things are possible. We wait on and work with God’s grace. As one of the saints said,’ all shall be well and all shall be well and every manner of things shall be well.’

May we all have the faith to believe that the shoot of Jesse is sprouting in all our lives.